Saturday, January 30, 2010

Crazy Heart

Scott Cooper's "Crazy Heart" is a movie that borrows its pacing from a tour on the road. Basically that's all it is. Bad Blake drives around the southwest, scrounging any gig he can get like Anvil. Mostly it's just small bars where he can get a fix of McClure's Whiskey before he does a set of old favorites (just like what my friend said about The Rolling Stones) and then (if possible) has a one-night stand with a fan. Blake is "staying bad," yes, but he's sometimes not being able to finish a whole performance before going and puking in the trash can out in the back of the place. That says something.

When he heads to Santa Fe, we expect more of the same. But he meets this pianist who's niece works for a small newspaper, and thus we are plunged into what we'll be following for most of the film. Her arrival and that of her son brings something out in Bad, a good side.

Also in Bad's life is Tommy Sweet, who's the rising star in country. The thing is, Bad taught him all about music and writes him most of his material. Bad doesn't seem to be on good terms with him, as they went on tour together but then decided to do "solo projects."

Consider this the foundation of the film. There's not much beyond these three characters (as someone said on IMDB, it's "simple"). But the reason you probably want to see this film isn't the plot description. It's Jeff Bridges. He plays Bad in a good performance. If you want a little pre-Oscar preference, I really would rather see Jeremy Renner win than Bridges, but then again, Bridges does a good job acting. Maggie Gyllenhaal is the newspaperwoman, and I guess she's decent, but obviously as Vanity Fair said "Crazy Heart is [Bridges'] vehicle." According to IMDB, he also sang all of those songs, as did Colin Farell as Tommy Sweet (who I thought was okayish, but not as bad as some people said he was). The vocal work is great by Bridges. I thought the music in the film was top-notch as well, and the way it's repeated in the film the desired effect is made, and you begin to have "old favorites."

The real problem with "Crazy Heart" is how fervently it borrows from not "Tender Mercies" (which Nick's Flick Picks among others compared to it but my friend said this film was "nothing like" it) but "The Wrestler." Ebert's review states that someone said that "Crazy Heart" was "'this year's 'The Wrestler''". It also got called this in the Playlist, IMDB, pretty much everywhere.

This film has so many similar plot devices. In both there's an estranged child, a doctor scene to scare the audience into believing that the main character is going to die, the main character has a name that he doesn't want to use so he replaces it with something else. Not to mention Fox Searchlight put both films out. In my opinion Mickey Rourke's performance in that film was much better; it was extremely good. Also, you may recall, "The Wrestler" was my pick for the Best Film of 2008. That movie was so great, you need to see it if you haven't. Like Vanity Fair said, "Crazy Heart" was made for Bridges so that he could win. I'm not saying it's a bad film, but it's just not comparable to Aronofsky's.

Finally, as my friend said, "Crazy Heart"'s ending was shoddy and premature. Nothing really gets explained. The plot just gets advanced. It's a warm and good film, with one of those characters that you "care about" (Ebert describing Rourke in his "Wrestler" review), but it coasts on its predecessors too much. B-

1 comment:

Literary Dreamer said...

You pretty much hit the nail on the head with this review. Someone I talked to who saw both this film and The Hurt Locker thought Jeremy Renner's performance involved a much bigger acting range than Bridges's did, which is why I hope I can get my hands on The Hurt Locker fairly soon.

And yes, The Wrestler was much better, from beginning to end (as was Mickey Rourke's performance). Nothing in that movie seemed contrived, whereas the whole "boy is lost" scene in Crazy Heart felt heavy-handed and was foreshadowed from eight miles away. The ending in this film also wasn't as powerful as it was in that movie, which in some ways [POSSIBLE SPOILER AHEAD] made this movie the anti-Wrestler.